Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Kingdom Now and the Kingdom Come – Luke 17:20-37 (part 2)

(Click here to read Luke 17)

Luke 17:20-21 (ESV)
20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

The book of Luke is the story of Jesus life, ministry, execution, and resurrection. This story of his life is the inauguration, demonstration, and proclamation of the Gospel (Good News) of the Kingdom of God. The word “gospel” actually had a political meaning. At the time of Jesus, the Roman empire was expanding and developing rapidly over their part of the world. As the Roman army conquered each territory, they would send ambassadors into that region to colonize and culturalize the area. These “citizens” of Rome would come bearing the gospel message that Caesar was now Lord. They would remain in the region to demonstrate the culture and values of the empire of Rome. By their influence, the area would become more like Rome. What began as a legal reality would become reality in practice over time.

When Jesus' followers began spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven over Judea, Samaria, and the Roman world, proclaiming that Jesus was Lord, they were making themselves a threat to the Roman empire. Most of the first disciples of Jesus followed him to execution by the empire. Many of them were crucified, an execution reserved for non-citizen insurrectionists and enemies of the empire.

The people of Israel had been waiting for their King and the New Kingdom for many years. Every era of their history had a promise of a coming Saviour who would rescue his people and establish justice forever. The prophesies grew in specificity over the years. By Jesus' time, the people were waiting for a king from David's line to take the throne and make things right. The violent occupying Roman empire led them to interpret these prophesies as the coming of a revolutionary military king who would conquer Rome in the name of their God.

It was of this Kingdom that Jesus taught. It was in the context of these understandings and misunderstandings that he preached and lived nonviolence, love for enemies, and a rejection of anxiety and striving for things in exchange for a generous life submitted to justice and love. Jesus was king, but his kingdom would not be like the empire of Rome. The Kingdom of God was planted in the hearts of individuals who became changed from the inside out, living the forgiveness and mercy they'd experienced in the world around them.

Jesus was inviting people to become citizens of his Kingdom, and then leaving them to share the good news, and turn the legal reality of his new Kingdom and Lordship into a demonstrated reality by the power of the Holy Spirit working through their lives.

It is this present reality that Jesus is speaking of when he answers the Pharisees in Luke 17:21. The Kingdom is here. It is among us. Jesus is crowned king upon his death and resurrection at the hands of the corrupt powers of this world. In defeating death, he makes a show of them as powerless, and sets people free to live outside their control. Starting with his life on earth, people are set free to live free and just and righteous lives of love and forgiveness through faith in him.

Luke 17:22-24 (ESV)
22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23  And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 24  For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.

But the reality is that the Kingdom as Jesus lived and preached it has not fully come to be. We live its reality now, but it is at his return that it will be fully consummated. By his great patience he waits for the world to come to him, by faith living according to love and truth. But there will be a day when the True King does return, in power, and every person, and every king and ruler, will submit to his rule. The day will come quickly, and the reality of it will be unmistakable. We do not live in fearful expectation of coming destruction, but a hopeful yearning for a real, tangible consummation of the Kingdom as our Good and Just God intends.

Luke 17:25-32, 34-37 (ESV)
25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26  Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27  They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29  but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulphur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32  Remember Lot's wife.

34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35  There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” 37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

His judgment will be upon those who refused to receive forgiveness from their sins and resist the hateful empires of this world. Those who accept the Kingdom and Jesus will live according to the true freedom for which we were first created, with no fear, sadness, or pain, in unity and love.

Luke 17:33 (ESV)
33  Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.

This coming Kingdom, now and to come, is the Great Reversal Jesus preaches during his entire ministry. Mountains will be brought low. Rulers will be removed, The humble will be exalted. The poor will be blessed. 

Our law is love.

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